Past Event

The Missing Picture (L'Image manquante)

October 17, 2023
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
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East Gallery, Maison Française, Buell Hall

Rithy Panh, 2013, 92 min.

In French and Khmer with English subtitles

Q&A with Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer 

Winner Un Certain Regard Award, Cannes Film Festival 2013
International Cinephile Society Award for Best Documentary 2015
Cinemanila International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Winner 2013 
Lumière Award for Best Documentary 2016
Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film 2014
César Awards Nominee for Best Documentary Film 2016

“For many years, I have been looking for the missing picture: a photograph taken between 1975 and 1979 by the Khmer Rouge when they ruled over Cambodia…”.  With his sixteenth documentary, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh continues to explore the traumas of Cambodian society, particularly the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge regime against its fellow citizens in the 1970s. In this moving documentary, Panh takes a different approach from that taken in his previous films such as S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003) and Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2012). This is his most autobiographical work, and he uses multiple media to tell the story, notably clay miniatures. The Khmer Rouge deliberately erased traces of its own history and of Cambodia’s past, and this is a remarkable endeavor to show the picture that has been missing, and to tell this story against the silencing of witnesses. The Missing Picture (2013) was the first Cambodian film to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film.

Rithy Panh was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1964. He is one of the most acclaimed documentary filmmakers today and the most famous Cambodian filmmaker worldwide. After 1975 many members of his family died in the genocide inflicted by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), while he eventually escaped in 1979 to Thailand. Panh arrived a year later in Paris as an orphan and stayed on,  studying filmmaking at La Fémis.  He has created a unique body of work consisting of documentaries and feature films that mostly deal with modern Cambodia and the traumatic legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime. Among his most famous documentaries is S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003) about the infamous torture prison of the Khmer Rouge. Rithy Panh also created, along with director Ieu Pannakar, the Bophana AudioVisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with the goal of preserving the country's film, photographic and audio history.

Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature and the Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender at Columbia University. Among her many research interests, those most relevant to this discussion of Rithy Panh’s movie are Film, Media and Visual Studies; Cultural Memory; Holocaust Studies; and the transmission of memories of violence across generations, for which she invented the term “post-memory.” 

Leo Spitzer is K. T. Vernon Professor of History Emeritus and Research Professor at Dartmouth College. He is a cultural and comparative historian and a writer working in the interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies.  On the basis of research in Africa, Latin America, and Europe, he employs photography, personal and familial oral history, and wide ranging testimonial materials to examine responses to colonialism and domination as well as postmemories of subordination and genocide.

This film is presented as part of the Columbia University Maison Française 2023 Film Festival, Across Generations: Unveiling the Past, Embracing the Present. The festival is curated by Shanny Peer, Fanny Guex and Ilana Custos-Quatreville and produced by the Columbia Maison Française.  

Additional support is provided by the Knapp Family Foundation and Villa Albertine, and by our festival co-sponsors at Columbia University: Alliance Program, Department of History, ISERP, Institute of African Studies, European Institute, and Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities. The full festival program can be found HERE.